Lee Up Slightly in First Fiscal Quarter

By: E&P Staff

Lee Enterprises reported today that advertising revenue for its first fiscal quarter, October through December, increased 69.6% to $237.1 million compared to the same period a year ago.

Retail rose 62.4%, classified grew 65.7%, and national was up 169.9%. Online advertising advanced 139.1%. Circulation revenue rose 59.7%.

On a same property basis, which excludes the impact of Pulitzer and other acquisitions and divestitures made in the current or prior year, total ad revenue for the quarter increased 1.3%. Retail was up 0.7%, classified was up 0.4%, and national was up 2.1%. Online ad revenue grew 33.2%. Circulation revenue dropped 2.7%.

Lee said that for the quarter, earnings per share from continuing operations were $.50 compared to $.60 a year ago. Excluding $.12 of early retirement and transition costs related to the acquisition of Pulitzer, EPS from continuing operations were $.62.

“Continued strong cash flow enabled us to reduce debt and achieve internal and external earnings expectations despite the industry-wide slump in automotive advertising and other lackluster advertising factors in the quarter,” Mary Junck, chairman and CEO of Lee, said in a statement.

Lee also reported that that advertising revenue in December increased 1% compared to the same period in the previous year. The company cited soft auto advertising and the negative impact of Christmas falling on Sunday for the results.

On a same property basis, which excludes the impact of acquisitions and divestitures made in the current or prior year, retail advertising rose 0.5%. Classified revenue slipped 0.1%, with employment up 11.3%, automotive down 14%, real estate down 1.7%, and other up 5.1%. Classified revenue in Lee’s non-daily publications rose 2%.

National advertising grew 4.4% and online advertising advanced 31.4%.

Circulation revenue decreased 3.5%.

Including the effect of acquisitions and divestitures, total advertising revenue for December increased 65.1% and total operating revenue grew 60.1% due primarily to the acquisition of Pulitzer Inc. in June 2005.

For the period ending Dec. 25, 2005, Pulitzer’s advertising revenue decreased 0.5% with total revenue up 0.7%. In St. Louis, advertising revenue dropped 2% led by a decline in classified automotive. In Pulitzer’s other newspapers, ad revenue was up 3.1%.

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